By Nicky Gavron AM
Nicky is Labour Housing and Planning Spokesperson on the London Assembly. She is on the Executive Committee of Labour Housing Group and of London LHG. She tweets @nickygavron
The economy is not flat-lining because of the planning system or because of Section 106 agreements for much needed affordable housing, it is flat-lining because of the lack of confidence and demand, caused by the government’s failing economic plan.
Figures published last week by the Local Government Association show that in London alone, there are 93,000 houses with planning permission, but which haven’t been started or have been stalled by developers. And this figure is probably an underestimate. London Councils reported last year that around 170,000 homes in the region already had planning permission but have not been built.
These figures show it is not planners or the planning system holding back housing.
These homes are not being built because banks are not lending to developers, and because house builders want to limit supply to push up prices and increase their profits. As Barratt’s 2011 annual report said:
“During the year we have focused on securing the best price for every sale. Across the Group we have focused on maximising value rather than driving volumes.”
The government is misdiagnosing the problem.
The culprits are the big house-builders who ‘land-bank’ – sitting on land without building – and the big banks that ‘don’t bank’ – not providing mortgages to people.
Since the election the government has cut London’s affordable housing budget by 70% and introduced sky-high rents for new ‘affordable’ housing. Now they say developers do not even need to deliver these. Their proposals are not a viable plan for growth; they are part of an ideological attack on affordable housing and will exacerbate London’s housing crisis.
And what is the Mayor’s record? On Boris Johnson’s watch affordable housing starts in London have fallen to their lowest level for a decade due to the cut in funding and the Mayor’s inability to get the new – much reduced – programme rolling.
So, while the government are busy blaming everybody but themselves, Londoners are suffering. More than ever, there is an enormous need for decent low-cost rented housing in the capital. Home ownership is becoming a distant dream for many and private sector rents are soaring well above inflation. At the same time, 200,000 families now live in overcrowded housing and rough sleeping is rising rapidly after years of decline.
The Mayor and government desperately need a plan for jobs and growth. The last thing the country needs is a misguided ‘growth’ programme based on ideological zeal, they need to look at the evidence and accept that their policies are hurting, but aren’t working.